American Catch: The Fight for Our Local Seafood

Paul Greenberg. Penguin Press, $26.95 (308p) ISBN 978-1-59420-448-7
In this sobering and crisply told tale of excess and loss, American seafood imports doubled and our seafood exports quadrupled between 1985 and 2005, according to Greenberg (Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food). Focusing on three local American seafoods—Eastern oysters, Gulf shrimp, and Alaska salmon—he explores the history of the seafood, its demise in certain waters, and the impact of the loss of a species on the surrounding ecology. Until the end of the 19th century, for example, oyster banks dotted the East Coast, providing not only sustenance and a source of income for coastal towns but also keeping local waters clear, since oysters filter mud and silt from the water that washes over them. Greenberg focuses on the decline of oysters in the bays around N.Y.C., where pollution destroyed entire populations. In the company of aquatic biologists attempting to rebuild oyster banks in New York waters, Greenberg discovers the difficulties of recreating an extinct seafood population. Greenberg points out the disastrous ecological consequences of farming seafood: given that 90% of the shrimp American eat is imported, and two-thirds of the salmon farmed, our marshes, estuaries, and wetlands serve no purpose. In the end, he suggests that the seafood sector must break its ties to other extractive industries—the oil and gas industry, commercial agriculture—in order to survive and flourish and do good business with the planet. (July)
Reviewed on: 06/09/2014
Release date: 06/26/2014
Genre: Nonfiction
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